The Whitehall Club does not quite belong to the ranks of the more prestigious men’s clubs of London. The quality of sherry received from the new wine supplier is a matter of much controversy, the smaller library is uncomfortably hot, the tea trays are bent and rattle, and certain members have a habit of making their complaints well known. It is up to long-suffering secretary Mr. Ford to deal with the various problems and the complaints that arise, so when a conspicuously disagreeable member is found dead in a library chair, he must deal with this too. Fearing negative effects on the club’s reputation, Ford solution is to “keep it quiet”, and enlists the help of another member, Dr. Anstruther, to certify a natural death. Of course, this is a choice that brings unfortunate consequences. Then Ford and Anstruther begin receiving letters from a mysterious blackmailer who seems to know everything. And when another unlikeable club member dies in the same library chair, the pressure mounts.
Keep It Quiet is a clever satire of the world of men’s clubs and Holmesian deduction. The parody of clubs filled with petty bickering old men and their absurd attempts to maintain order, power, and civility is entertaining and wry. The caricature of detective reasoning comes in the form of club member and lawyer Cardonnel’s very questionable deductive methods to identify the resident book thief.
…Much the same reasoning applies to the wife and the card playing, though here, definitely, we are in the realm of conjecture. You see, if he has a wife, he must explain somehow how he is able to obtain so readily a supply of second-hand books, many of them having perhaps some mark identifying them with the Club. The most ready suggestion is that he buys second-hand packs of cards from the Club in the usual way, and explains the second-hand books as being a similar convenience.”
Hull offers a variation on the inverted mystery by revealing the villain and circumstances at the halfway mark. But instead of merely switching the remainder of the story from “whodunit?” to “will he be caught?”, Hull’s reveal provides for a very entertaining, if unconscious, game of cat and mouse game between Ford and the culprit. Ford, who has previously shown little backbone, begins to question demands made on him, forcing the villain to contemplate another murder in order to obtain the object of his desire.
Clever, witty, and filled with Hull’s particular wry humor, Keep It Quiet is an enjoyably comic mystery that I highly recommend.
My Judgment – 4/5
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